Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Mystery, the Pang, the Passage, the Unknown

Saint Catherine of Siena
by Alice Meynell

(Written for Strephon, who said that a woman must lean, or she should not have his chivalry.)

The light young man who was to die,
Stopped in his frolic by the State,
Aghast, beheld the world go by;
But Catherine crossed his dungeon gate.

She found his lyric courage dumb,
His stripling beauties strewn in wrecks,
His modish bravery overcome;
Small profit had he of his sex.

On any old wife’s level he,
For once—for all. But he alone—
Man—must not fear the mystery,
The pang, the passage, the unknown:

Death. He did fear it, in his cell,
Darkling amid the Tuscan sun;
And, weeping, at her feet he fell,
The sacred, young, provincial nun.

She prayed, she preached him innocent;
She gave him to the Sacrificed;
On her courageous breast he leant,
The breast where beat the heart of Christ.

He left it for the block, with cries
Of victory on his severed breath.
That crimson head she clasped, her eyes
Blind with the splendour of his death.

And will the man of modern years
—Stern on the Vote—withhold from thee,
Thou prop, thou cross, erect, in tears,
Catherine, the service of his knee?

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